The Future Of Bento Boxes – A World of 3D Printing
Today I want to talk about something a little different to what I usually post, the future of bento boxes and how a technology like 3D printing could change how we use and think about them, don’t worry, I’ll try not to get too technical and boring!
You may have seen websites like Shapeways where you can buy 3D printed creations designed by pretty much anyone with an idea and have them printed, and sent straight to your door.
This opens up a whole new realm of creativity for us food lovers, though you may not have thought of it yet.
3D printing, starts off it’s life with someone with an idea and a 3D modelling program.
Hours, weeks, months or even years can be put into the model that is being created or a scanner can be used to recreate pre-existing objects, no matter how intricate or simple the design, a file is created which then needs to be read by a 3D printer.
There are many different types of 3D printers which can print with all manner of different materials, from sand, to wood and even ceramic, but the most common type prints with plastic.
Most commonly, the printer will be fed strips of plastic filament which will go down to a nozzle.
Once your design is ready, you can give that information to the printer and it will use it as a kind of map, the nozzle will expel the plastic in tiny layers, one on top of another, not unlike icing a cake, until the design has become 3D.
Thinking of bento boxes and just how many of them are made from plastic, it opens up a world of possibilities, where most any box you can think of, within the constraints of gravity and all that important stuff, could be created with a little learning.
In fact, some people already have created their own bento boxes.
This one, called the Hex Bento Box, printed by luckyfishlab and created by tchaint, is a gorgeous design and certainly one I would buy if I saw it in the shops.
This design, printed by sofiadragon1979 and created by mizellj, is really clever and pretty too.
It has a lovely design on top, a cutlery draw layer complete with cutlery and another tier with multiple compartments!
It doesn’t stop there though, how about a safe haven for your doughnut?
How about a pot for your Ritz crackers?
Though the ideas you could come up with are fantastic for creativity, there are a few downsides to the idea of 3D printing a lunch box or a lunch box gadget.
Hopefully time and better technology will sort out these short comings.
One such downside is that printing can take many many hours.
As I mentioned earlier, most printers “draw” hundreds and hundreds of small layers over and over which as you may be able to imagine, takes a very long time.
For a bento box, it could take 12 hours or longer to create and it may not always work, as physical objects and a design on a computer sometimes disagree!
The next problem is the expense.
For a printer, you are looking at a minimum of £500 or so, or over £1000 for a good one and even then it will be small.
To print off bento boxes, you will need a larger design area which will cost even more than that, so as a start up price, it’s not too feasible just for one or two boxes.
Last but most important, plastic safety, and specifically food safe materials, need to be used to make sure nothing toxic is getting out of the plastic on to your food or drink.
This one is a little difficult as the type of plastic that can be used to create food safe items (PLA), also melts at around 55oc, so dishwashing and using it for things like hot drink cups, is a no no.
Other, better materials for food grade items, like Nylon (believe it or not) are less accessible at the moment for every day type printers so again, a bit of a bummer.
All in all, I really do hope that technology can make 3D printing faster, more affordable for a larger size of printing and use a wider range of materials.
If these things could become a reality, you could be getting some very interesting bento designs in the future!
You never know, one day you might have the option to pay for a file from the internet and print off the object in your home perfectly, rather than going down to the shop or ordering online and waiting for delivery!
……but that, for now at least, is science fiction.